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Poster: anh Mike Date: Jul 9, 2010 11:16am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Are any of these titles in the Public Domain?

I wonder how much this guy thought he would make off John Wayne movie. 1998 probably would have pulled in more money than now. The court costs were not worth the value of the movie in profits, at least in my opinion.

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Poster: Video-Cellar Date: Jul 10, 2010 7:27am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Are any of these titles in the Public Domain?

I think that they had seen some companies successfully recapture copyrights through underlying rights and thought that they would be able to follow and get back exclusive distribution. It didn't work out that was an they did end up having to shell out a few hundred thousand dollars in costs.

The legal action regarding McLintock was originally between MPI home Video (Maljack Productions Inc) and Goodtimes Home Video and eventually between the Batjac Productions (lead by the films producer, and John Wayne's son, Michael Wayne) and GoodTimes and the Registrar of Copyrights. It was instigated a couple of years after the film entered the public domain due to non-renewal.

These are some of the arguments Maljack and Batjac covered in the long process. In the end they were really grasping at straws trying to regain control of the picture.

-Music: that Batjac had the exclusive right to synchronise the copyright soundtrack to the film and that GoodTimes video had no rights to synchronise the music even though it had sought a new licence from the music publisher (EMI-UA Catalogue). The court found that the synchronisation of music is included in the motion picture copyright and that use of copyright music in a public domain film does not infring mechanical copyright if a direct from the publisher or compulsory licence is used.

-Script: They claimed that the film was based on an unpublished screenplay which was also later turned into a comic book. The court ruled that as much of the screenplay that was presented in the film was published with the film and the later publication of a comic book based on the script did not make the film derivative of a literary work.

-Common Law trademark and propety claims: They claimed that McLintock was a common law trademark that was infringed by Goodtimes' use. The court rejected this outright. They also made property claim, claiming that GoodTimes illegally accessed Batjac's vault print to make their video master. This was rejected by the court on the basis that more than one print survives.

They eventually got some satisfaction when PD distributor UAV copied the MPI video for a release. Maljack and Batjac successfully argued that panning and scanning a widescreen film creates a new audio visual work which is the subject of copyright.

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Poster: HektorT Date: Jul 10, 2010 7:06am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Are any of these titles in the Public Domain?

One of the reasons that public domain law is as vague as it is, is that few cases ever get to court. If a big Hollywood film studio puts a Cease & Desist on you, most peole think it makes sense to Desist, so there is never a trial and the law doesn't become any clearer. If Batjac vs Goodtimes never went to court, a lot of stuff would never clearly be PD and the studios would continue to claim rights to it. Maybe Batjac did this because they thought they could make money and maybe they did it because the thought that a legal precedent needed to be set, and they could afford it. There are sometimes cases where the cost of legal counsel is much less than you would expect either because one of the defendants is a lawyer or because the law firm agrees to do pro bono. In any case, in 1998 it was not at all clear that protecting your riht to continue to sell VHS home video would mean you also protect, ten years later, the rights of every tom dick and harry with a dvd ripping software and an internet connection to sell download copies of that movie or broadcast it online for free. It's a different world now.

If you scour the web a bit, you'll see that McClintock is often included on a list of Favorite John Wayne films. That shows the value of the Public Domain. I'd be willing to bet that McClintock is watched more than any other non-PD John Wayne film (it's the only PD JW film in color). When something is free it is available to the masses. People living in India who make a few hundred dollars a month and speak fluent english can watch McClintock when they wonder what John Wayne is all about.

Ask people to name a horror film? How often does "Night of the Living Dead" come up? Same story. It's PD, plus it is good.

Maybe it would be a good idea for somebody like the EFF to set up a legal defense fund and choose one or two PD cases a year to defend, to help keep things honest and ensure that the law continues to evolve and/or become more clear.